Rapiers out as Obama accuses Romney of lies

Six weeks ago, Republicans chose super-capitalist Mitt Romney to take on Barack Obama in the US presidential election. Now, with accusations flying, the campaign has taken an ugly turn.

The video begins like a campaign advert for Mitt Romney: surrounded by supporters, the Republican presidential nominee launches into a warbling rendition of ‘America The Beautiful.’ Then the accusations start to roll: ‘Mitt Romney shipped jobs to Mexico... And China.’ The singing falters, and the video concludes: ‘Mitt Romney is not the solution. He’s the problem.’

The video comes from the office of President Barack Obama. With its dark insinuations and personal jibes, it is a classic ‘attack ad’ – among this campaign’s most brutal yet. Six weeks after Romney sealed the Republican nomination, the gloves are slipping off.

This new aggression was sparked by an article last week in the Boston Globe. Romney, the Globe found, had still been listed as the head of financial services company Bain Capital three years after he claimed to have left. Obama’s aides smelt blood: if the documents were accurate, they said, Romney had misled the American people. If not, he had lied to US regulators – a serious crime.

Romney hit back furiously, calling these statements ‘disgusting, demeaning... and beneath the dignity of the president.’ He insisted that he had remained CEO of Bain Capital in name only.

Why all this fuss over an administrative detail? Because if Romney did linger at the helm, he oversaw some controversial decisions. Between 1999 (when Romney claims he left)

and 2002, a string of companies owned by Bain went bankrupt. Hundreds of workers were made redundant as Bain shipped jobs overseas.

With 8.2 percent of US adults out of work, unemployment is a key electoral issue. If Obama persuades the public that Romney callously slashed jobs, he could seriously damage his rival.

Yet Romney’s work with Bain Capital is also his greatest strength: he personally founded the firm in 1984 and nurtured it into a multi-billion dollar business. Based on this spectacular success, Romney claims to be the ideal person to lead the USA out of its economic slump.

There is no doubt that Romney is a talented businessman; but doubts remain over the style of business he practised.

Bain drain

Obama should focus on Romney’s policies, say Republicans, not his past. These petty spats over events ten years past are a distraction from the real issue: America’s dire economic situation. Obama only resorts to personal attacks, they say, because he knows he has failed where it matters.

But a person’s past is very revealing, Democrats say. If Romney was happy to make workers redundant as a businessman, his attitude as president will be similar. When you put yourself in such a public position, they say, you should expect a grilling. And for a job as important as this, no comb is too fine.

You Decide

  1. Is it legitimate for politicians to attack each other personally, or should they stick to policy debates?
  2. Is there anything wrong with a company director making workers redundant, if that’s what’s best for her or his business?

Activities

  1. Write an article from the perspective of a Republican newspaper accusing Barack Obama of lowering the tone of the debate.
  2. Write the script for your own attack ad blaming Mitt Romney for Americans being made redundant.

Some People Say...

“Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.”

What do you think?

Q & A

How come American elections get so much more attention than any others?
Because the USA is the most powerful nation in the world. The decision voters make this Autumn will have an impact far beyond their own borders. A Romney government would be far more aggressive in its diplomacy with countries like Russia and Iran; it would negotiate less and intervene more. And since the US has economic links with most of the world, its financial future also matters hugely.
So which candidate will be better for the global economy?
Romney claims that he will lead America back to prosperity by slashing regulation and public spending. Obama believes in stimulating the economy and nursing it gradually back to health. Similar debates are raging across the globe. Who is right? That’s up to you to decide.

Word Watch

Attack ad
‘Negative campaigning,’ in which a politician highlights their opponents weaknesses instead of their own strength, is a controversial issue all over the world. The large amounts of money in American politics make it a particularly prominent issue there. During election season, slickly produced attack ads crowd the airwaves. Obama had promised to refrain from such tactics; yet this election looks set to be one of the most negative ever.
Republican nomination
American politics is dominated by two parties: liberal and centrist Democrats like current president Barack Obama, and conservative Republicans like challenger Mitt Romney. Each nominates one candidate for a presidential election; if several people stand, the nominee is chosen in a long drawn-out and gruelling series of votes called ‘primaries.’
In name only
In 1999 Mitt Romney took up a position organising the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. At this point he gave up most (possibly all) of his regular responsibilities with Bain Capital. But he still drew a large salary, and kept the titles of CEO, Chairman and Sole Owner of the company.
Shipped jobs overseas
Because living costs, standards of life and labour laws vary so much, a worker in a poor country can often be paid much less than someone doing the same job in a rich one. That makes it very tempting for company leaders to move jobs from, say, Boston to Mexico or China. This is ‘outsourcing’ or ‘offshoring,’ and it is a very contentious political issue.

Subjects

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